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The Quick 10: 10 Variations on Tetris

Everyone's favorite line-building, time-wasting, procrastination aid video game turns 25 on Saturday. Yep, our friend Tetris is a quarter of a century old. Although technology has certainly advanced in 25 years, gameplay really hasn't changed much at all. And why should it? The beauty is in its simplicity. But that's not to say that marketers haven't tried to change the game "“ below, you'll find 10 variations on Tetris that have entered the market over the years. But you'll notice it's the original that still endures.

hatris1. Hatris. In case the plain old blocks were a little too dull for you, Hatris provided you with the opportunity to stack different types of hats instead. Wizard hats, top hats, crowns"¦ whatever the variation was, you had to stack five alike hats in a row to get them to disappear.
2. Faces. I had this one and I loved it. Each block that fell had an element of a face on it and you had to stack the pieces that went together to make the whole face go away and get points. Some of the faces were famous, so you should have had an easier time putting them together"¦ except a misprint in the booklet that went with the game messed up the images of two important people. "The pictures of George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass (pp. 8 and 18) were inexplicably reversed. Please do not use their images as references for a U.S. History class," the insert explained.

3. Tetris Elements. Picture the design-a-disaster element from Sim City and there you have it. Five game variations offer five ways to destroy your hard work - "Stratosphere" had meteors, "Earthquake" featured tremors, "Tempest" switched between screens at inopportune times, "Ice" had falling icicles and "Fire" had intense heat that would melt rows.

4. Tetris Plus included a little professor guy that you needed to get to the bottom of the screen. The game starts with pre-placed tetrominoes, so it wasn't as easy as just starting the game and letting him drop. There's a decidedly evil element to this game "“ instead of just hitting the top and losing the game like usual, a loss in this game happened when the professor's skull came into contact with the metal spikes at the top of the playing field. Whoops.

well5. Welltris. It was just like Tetris but with different dimensions. Imagine that you're looking down into a well "“ go figure, right? The tetrominoes fell down the sides of the well, giving the player all four sides to work with to get the pieces into position to eliminate lines. And "“ bonus "“ you also got to view "beautiful background scenes of modern Russian culture."
6. Tetris: The GrandMaster was for serious players only. If regular Tetris was just too simple for you, even at level 50, then GrandMaster may have been up your alley. Once you reached a certain level (500, to be exact), the pieces were no longer airborne "“ they just appeared at the lowest level on the screen and the player only has a split second to move it before it was just locked into the place it appeared. The highest level was 999, at which point the player achieved the GrandMaster status.

7. Tetris Worlds included a backstory about a planet called Hadar 4, objects called Tetrions and little beings called Minos. To rescue the Minos from Hadar 4 as it has become uninhabitable, and to do so, you have to "“ well, play Tetris. Their story is a little more convoluted than that, but that's the drift. The fun part comes in with the variations, including "Sticky Tetris," "Fusion Tetris" and "Hot-Line" Tetris.

splash8. Tetris Splash is relatively new compared to the others "“ it just came out in 2007. As you can probably guess, it has a water theme: aquarium-like graphics and watery-sounding music. Players get to choose between saltwater and freshwater and could originally download fish bundles for 62 cents each. Four "décor" packs "“ Pirates, Atlantis, Graveyard and Scuba "“ were also available for $1.87.

9. Tetris Party is the newest addition to the Tetris family and is available via WiiWare for the Wii. I had no idea this existed and now I'm pretty sure I have to have it. You can play in several different modes, even using the Balance Board in one of them, which sounds really hard. You can also play co-op "“ working together to clear lines "“ and Stage Racer, in which the player guides a single tetrimino through a narrow maze without touching any walls.

10. Tetris 1-D. This isn't an official Tetris game, but I kind of got a kick out of it. Check it out for yourself.

Has anyone played any of these? Or do you have fond memories of playing Tetris for days on end? Share in the comments! I can tell you that my cell phone version of Tetris definitely got me through boring lectures in college on multiple occasions.

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Watch 18 Minutes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus Seinfeld Bloopers
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Sometimes you just need to settle in and watch professional actors cracking up, over and over. That's what we have for you today.

In the two videos below, we get a total of 18 minutes of Seinfeld bloopers, specifically focused on Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When Louis-Dreyfus cracks up, Seinfeld can't help but make it worse, goading her. It's delightful.

Sample quote (during an extended break):

Seinfeld: "We won an Emmy, you know."

Louis-Dreyfus: "Yeah, but I didn't."

Her individual Seinfeld Emmy arrived in 1996; the show started winning in 1992. But in September 2017, Louis-Dreyfus—who turns 57 years old today—set a couple of Emmy records when she won her sixth award for playing Selina Meyer on Veep.

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8 Surprising Facts About Bubble Bobble
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by Ryan Lambie

Originally released in 1986, Bubble Bobble is a colorful platform video game with a fiendishly addictive two player co-op mode, which quickly became an arcade hit for Taito. Widely ported to home computers and consoles, Bubble Bobble marked the start of a long-running series of sequels and spin-offs that is still remembered fondly today. Here are a few things you might not know about the '80s classic that started it all.

1. IT HAS ITS ROOTS IN AN EARLY 1980s TITLE.

Before Bubble Bobble, there was Chack’n Pop, a far more obscure platform game released by Taito in 1983. Some of Bubble Bobble’s ideas appear here in nascent form: a single-screen platform game where the player controls a weird chicken-like creature (the Chack’n of the title). The aim is to retrieve a heart from one corner of the maze-like screen before rushing back to the top.

Some of the mechanics are a bit strange: Chack’n’s primary attack is a grenade-like weapon, which is quite difficult to control. Nevertheless, many of the enemies and collectible items are identical to those in Taito’s later classic—the purple enemies called Monstas make their first appearance here, while two levels in Bubble Bobble directly reference Chack'n Pop.

2. IT WAS AIMED AT COUPLES.

Bubble Bobble was designed by Fukio Mitsuji, who joined Taito in his mid-20s and initially worked on such games as Super Dead Heat, Land Sea Air Squad, and the (very good) vertical shooter Halley’s Comet. For his next game, however, Mitsuji wanted to create something very different from the experiences commonly found in arcades at the time. Noticing that arcades in Japan were commonly frequented by men, he wanted to create a game that couples could enjoy together.

"Back then, women were rarely seen in Japanese arcades," Mitsuji later said in a video interview for the video game compilation, Taito Legends. "So I thought bringing more couples would help solve this issue. That's why I designed cute characters and included cooperative play in Bubble Bobble."

3. THE GAME WAS AN EARLY CO-OP.

Mitsuji’s concept was unusual for its time. If two-player games existed at all in '80s arcades, they were usually competitive and violent. The four-player Gauntlet, released in 1985, warned that “shots do not hurt other players—yet ...”, while 1987’s seminal beat-'em-up Double Dragon ended with its players fighting to the death over the woman they had just rescued.

Bubble Bobble, on the other hand, had a far lighter atmosphere. While players could compete over the items that appeared on the screen, the game encouraged cooperation rather than aggression. Indeed, the only way to get to Bubble Bobble’s true ending was for two players to work together.

4. IT CONTAINS HIDDEN EXTRAS.

As well as the game’s central concept—which involves spitting bubbles at enemies to capture them before bursting the bubbles to finish them off—Mitsuji packed in all kinds of bonuses and hidden extras among Bubble Bobble’s 100 levels. The hardest to find are the three hidden rooms, which can only be unlocked by reaching levels 20, 30, and 40 without losing a life, and then entering a special door.

Full of jewels to collect, these hidden rooms also contained coded messages, which, when deciphered, gave clues as to how to complete the game. “If you want to get back your love of truth you must help each other until the last,” for example, hinted that you could only complete Bubble Bobble with two players.

5. NUMBERS WERE IMPORTANT.

There are hidden depths to Bubble Bobble that will only become obvious after long hours of play, such as the way items are linked to certain digits in your score. If the two penultimate numbers of a player’s score are identical—so, 5880, for example—then higher-scoring items will appear once the level’s completed. Similarly, rounds ending with a 0 or a 5 will also generate rarer bonuses.

6. THERE WERE MULTIPLE ENDINGS.

Bubble Bobble may look cute, with its cartoon dinosaurs and bouncy theme tune, but it’s also a tough game to crack. Later levels can only be completed by mastering tricky techniques, like riding on bubbles to get out of otherwise inescapable pits. The cruelest twist comes at the end, where a single player will be told, after 100 levels of action, to “come here with your friend.”

Even in two-player mode, the game has to be completed twice in order to see the true ending; get through the first 100 levels, and “Super Mode” is unlocked, where the same 100 levels are made faster and more difficult to complete. At a time where most games either didn’t have a conclusion, or concluded with a simple “Congratulations!” message, Bubble Bobble’s multiple endings were quite unusual. And the ending you’re rewarded with when completing the Super Mode is very strange indeed...

7. IT WAS ALL ABOUT FAMILY TIES.

The plot of Bubble Bobble sees its two brothers, Bubby and Bobby, turned into bubble-blowing dragons, while their girlfriends have been kidnapped by the evil Baron von Blubba. Completing the game once reveals what’s called the “Happy End,” where the heroes are reunited with their girlfriends and turned back into humans. But complete the game’s Super Mode, and you’re treated to an unexpected twist: the huge boss you’ve just defeated—the hooded, bottle-throwing Super Drunk—is revealed to be Bubby and Bobby’s parents, who must have been transformed by the same grim magic that turned the heroes into dragons. It’s a surreal—and even quite dark, depending on your interpretation—ending to a classic game.

8. THE SERIES IS STILL GOING STRONG.

The popularity of Bubble Bobble quickly made it one of the most widely-ported games of its era. It appeared on such computers and consoles as the ZX Spectrum, the Amiga, the NES, and Sega Master System—even the Game Boy got its own monochrome, handheld version of the game. Bubble Bobble’s success also prompted Taito to create a string of loose sequels and spin-offs, including Rainbow Islands, Parasol Stars and Bubble Bobble Symphony. The spin-off series are still going strong, with recent installments hitting the Nintendo DS, Wii, and Xbox in recent years.

But Mitsuji himself only worked on the first sequel to Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands (1987), a wonderful single-player platform game that differed wildly from its predecessor in terms of mechanics and pace. Mitsuji also created three other games for Taito— Syvalion, Darius II, and Volfied—before he left the company in the early 1990s. His last game came in 1991—an obscure yet delightful platform puzzler called Popils for the Sega Game Gear, which contained much of the elegant simplicity of Bubble Bobble.

For the remainder of his life, Mitsuji taught game design, before he passed away at the tragically young age of 48 in 2008. It was a sad loss for the video game industry, for sure, but his most famous creation delighted a generation of players with its lighter-than-air action. More than 30 years later, Bubble Bobble remains an out-and-out classic.

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